The five short stories collected together in Red Poppies (appropriately subtitled “Tales of Envy and Revenge”) are brightly coloured vignettes of American grotesquery, brief glimpses of life through the eyes of those who lack, in a country where the viewpoint is distorted by the unmet promise of plenty and opportunity for all.
There is the cleaner’s dispassionate observation of her wealthy, but unbalanced, employer’s decline, the poverty trapped co-ed who finds a less than traditional way to pay her college bills, the back-woods family being filmed for their alleged poverty, but who have more than a few surprises for their city-based film crew, the waitress who hates her job, her boss and her rich clients and the poverty-line worker repeatedly dragged back down by the ignorance of her family. The land of opportunity has passed these people by and the wealth, success or undeserved good luck of others only serves to highlight their lack and rub their noses in it.
The characters “wandering absently” through these stories are indirectly summed up right at the beginning of the title story, “Red Poppies” with its opening description of the gaudily coloured flowers from which it takes its name: each “a unique personality” with “a rough beauty of their own”; sometimes “wanton”, sometimes “shameless”; “miniature women” drifting in “different directions”.
The stories in the collection are miniature character studies with more than a touch of Flannery O’Connor to them. It is the characters and the world as seen through their eyes that dominate the book, rather than plot lines and if you are looking for stories with a punch-line, or even a resounding conclusion, you are likely to be disappointed. If, however, you enjoy looking at the world as others might see it, then the observant, crisp, clear prose and distorted vision of these stories may well do it for you.
Red Poppies is published by New Generation Publishing and is available from Amazon.